The Edgerton Brothers Take Over Hollywood!
Poolside with Deb
Deborah True Neal
Although it may seem like they just landed in L.A. with their indie film noir feature The Square, Aussie brothers Nash and Joel Edgerton are no strangers to major Hollywood productions. I had an opportunity to take part of a roundtable interview with the guys; ironically they were seated before a panoramic view of the city, ripe for conquest!
Director Nash is a seasoned stunt performer whose credits include The Matrix trilogy, Star Wars: Episode II and Episode III, The Thin Red Line and Superman Returns. He directed and starred in “Spider,” a dark comedy short shot on 16MM that made serious headway and garnered awards and praise during the 2007/2008 film festival circuit, and is also an award-winning music video director and experienced film editor. The Square marks his feature film directorial debut.
Joel, the actor and screenwriter of the pair, said, “It’s sort of surreal to be directed by your brother, but I trust him and the proof is in the product.”
Joel knows of which he speaks in regard to working with directors. He is currently filming the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing with director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and has two films in post-production: David Michod’s Animal Kingdom and Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior. Previous acting credits include King Arthur, Kinky Boots, Smokin’ Aces and Star Wars: Episode II and Episode III, playing Owen Lars (Nash served as his stunt double and there are many asides exchanged between the two regarding Joel sipping coffee while snuggling in a blanket as his brother had glass vacuumed from his hand after performing his stunts.) The Square, in which Joel plays Billy the arsonist, was a first for him as well; he conceived the original story and drafted the screenplay.
“There were times we would rehearse and Nash would come in with the script and, without even looking at me, just be talking to an actor, ‘Ah, don’t say that, that’s so pointless,’” Joel recalled. So how do the two work together while retaining their close relationship as brothers and buddies? “We’re really blunt with each other, almost careless sometimes. But we never bear a grudge,” Joel explained.
Nash obviously believes in his brother’s script and The Square is a stellar example of how the film noir genre can succeed with modern audiences on a shoestring budget by keeping it real. It’s a simple and tightly constructed story of lust and betrayal involving two adulterous lovers who decide to execute a simple plan in order to obtain funds and run away together. They succeed, but with tragic results and find themselves victims of blackmail. The premise works due to believable characters and ordinary surroundings: much of the action takes place in the light of day.
“The whole idea of basing it in reality, to me, made it, one, more relatable [to] an audience and two, by doing that made it more tense,” Nash explained. “At one time film noir [films] had elements of tension to them and intrigue and thrills--yeah, it’s thrilling, but I thought the more real it felt, it would be much more engaging [as well].”
Joel offered his theory as to why the classic genre doesn’t play well today. “Film noir, I think, has a traditional story structure that we somehow felt went out of date. I somehow suspect that it’s because of the traditional role of the woman in the film noir. She was a femme fatale and she actually had no genuine interest in the man except...a financial gain or to dupe him into killing her husband or something. I think the successful kind of modern noirs take what was [in the] original and bring something new to it. And for [The Square’s] Carla (Claire van der Boom), while she may have been a little questionable sometimes, she actually has a genuine interest in escaping with Ray (David Roberts) rather than just, you know, hobbling him.”
The setting for the film plays a huge part in the suspense as well; the doomed lovers live across a river from each other. Joel conceived of the setting, and Nash found the perfect location. “I was describing it to a friend and she said, ‘Had you ever been to Woronora (Australia)?’ I hadn’t, so I went there the next day and I was like, ‘I found the town; this is where we’re going to set the movie.’ The whole waterway was definitely integral to the story [since] they lived across the river from each other and…”
Joel jumped in and finished the thought, “There was socially a kind of economic division between the two lovers and there’s really a sense that the river divides the town between the haves and the have-nots in a way, without being too overstated about it.”
The setting also led to a sense of impending danger, Joel explained. “This undercurrent--which is [considered] truth in Queensland--this manmade canal that actually had dogs and people and all sorts of things go missing there, there’s this element of questioning crocodiles and sharks and weird things that live in there.”
All of this leads to the fun of a satisfying thriller with the prospect of several suggested twists. Joel promises repeated viewings of The Square peels back even more layers. “I think one of the things that Nash has done with the finished film is that the answers are all there but he hasn’t spelled them out too much,” he said. “That‘s a really tricky skill.”
With numerous solo projects in progress between the two brothers are there plans to work together again in the near future? Nash said, “I’m writing another film with Joel and I’m going to make another short which is kind of a sequel to ‘Spider.’ I thought no one ever makes sequels to shorts, so yes, I’m doing that.”
Nash was reluctant to provide further details on the pending project, however, “It’s still taking shape. I kind of know where the film is but I’m not really ready to [say much more]. It’s a mix of genres. It’s different from The Square. I can’t help myself if I base all my films in that kind of reality in some way, but it will be bigger than The Square is, I think.”
Will Joel be in it? Nash laughed, “Yeah, if he plays his cards right.”
Joel doesn’t seem too worried about securing a role. “I’m getting really good at auditions,” he replied.